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How to Connect a Portable Solar Generator to an Electrical Panel
A solar generator is a convenient and practical device that can act as an all-in-one solar power station. They give you the flexibility to run a fully off-grid solar power system, but they can also act as an additional source of solar electricity for those that still rely on the grid for the majority of their power needs.
If, for example, you relied heavily on the grid to supply power to your home, you would be left without power in the event of a blackout or partial grid failure. This is where a solar generator can really come in handy. When paired with one or more solar panels, a solar generator can act as a reliable source of power during emergencies and power outages.
The question many people ask is: how do I connect a portable solar generator to my home’s electrical panel? Whether you currently own a solar generator, or you are wondering if one would be a worthwhile investment, we are here to tell you how you would go about plugging a solar generator into your home’s electrical panel.
What is an Electrical Panel?
An electrical panel, which is sometimes known as a breaker panel, looks like a small metal box with a door. They are usually mounted directly to the wall in a low-traffic area of the house. Inside the electrical panel, you will find all of the breaker switches for your home.
These breaker switches are designed to shut off automatically when there is too much electrical current flowing through them. Within the panel, you will also find the main circuit breaker that controls power to the entire house.
When you draw power from the grid, power flows into your home through an outdoor electrical meter, which then routes power to your electrical panel. Since the electrical panel can be considered the main hub for electric power in your home, you might be wondering if you can connect a solar generator to the electrical panel to act as a backup in the event of a grid failure.
Can You Connect a Solar Generator to Your Electrical Panel?
While it is possible to connect a portable solar generator to an electrical panel, it is incredibly important that it is done correctly and safely. Failing to do so could result in damage to your solar generator, as well as your electrical panel.
To make the connection, you will need the appropriate tools and devices, like suitable power cords and transfer switches. Since solar generators already come equipped with a built-in charge controller and power inverter, you do not need to purchase these pieces of equipment separately to supply power to electronic devices and appliances.
Connecting a solar generator to your home’s electrical system is actually very easy if you are already running a grid-tied solar power system. In this case, you would already be using a grid-tied power inverter to feed your solar power into the grid, so you could simply connect your solar generator through that same power inverter.
If your solar power system is separate from your home’s electrical system, the process will be a little bit trickier.
The easiest and safest way to connect your solar generator to your home is to use a generator transfer switch. These small devices are installed to the electrical panel and act as a go-between for your solar generator and electrical panel.
They are connected to all of the circuits in your electrical panel, which gives you the flexibility to only supply power to the circuits you would like to supply power to. These devices also have safety features that prevent the back-feed of electricity.
Essentially, transfer switches alternate the power supply between the grid and the power that is supplied by your solar or gasoline-powered generator. These switches make power management fairly easy to control, as you can shut off circuits you do not need to supply power to during emergency situations. For example, if you were facing a complete grid failure, you might just want to power your lights and refrigerator, rather than unnecessary electrical appliances, such as your air conditioning unit.
When it comes to connecting a portable solar generator to a standard electrical panel, there are three types of transfer switches to choose from:
- Automatic Transfer Switch – These “smart” switches can automatically recognize a power outage and start drawing power from a connected solar generator. They also shut the solar generator off and switch back to utility power as soon as the grid is back up and running. While these transfer switches are the most efficient option, they are also the most expensive. If you experience regular power failures and need to keep your electricity running, they might be an appropriate option; however, you would also want to connect several solar generators to justify the expensive price tag of the transfer switch.
- Manual Transfer Sub-Panel Switch – This option is more affordable than an automatic switch, but they do need to be activated manually. If you are just looking for a way to supply power to your home during occasional power outages, they can be a decent option.
- Breaker Interlock Connector – These tend to be the most popular option, as they are the least expensive, as well as the most flexible. A breaker interlock connector allows you to choose which home appliances or electronics your solar generator will supply power to. They often feature a built-in amp meter, which helps prevent overloading.
Can You Supply Power to Your Home Without Going Through the Electrical Panel?
In most cases, people will just connect their electronic devices and appliances directly to their solar generators. One of the great things about solar generators is they feature a wide variety of power output ports, so you rarely have to worry that your solar generator will not be compatible with a certain device.
In fact, most solar generators will feature multiple USB charging ports, AC power outlets, 12V outlets, and even the more modern USB-C ports.
If you are wonder what type of solar generator you will need, or how many you should purchase, simply do a basic load wattage calculation for your electrical needs during a grid failure. From there, simply choose an appropriate solar generator and the necessary solar panels to keep it charged. Remember, you can always run multiple solar generators in parallel if a single solar generator cannot meet your power needs.
Choosing a Solar Generator
As mentioned previously, solar generators are incredibly useful pieces of solar equipment. Not only are they portable, they contain all of the equipment needed to supply solar power to your electronic devices.
If you are unsure where to start with solar generators, we highly recommend you take the time to read our Complete Solar Generator Buyer's Guide, which explains everything you need to know about solar generators and features our top six picks for the best options on the market today.
If you do not think you need a full-sized solar generator, and you only need enough power to run a small series of emergency lights and charge a few portable electronics, you may also want to take a look at our collection of Jackery Portable Power Stations. These smaller units work well for most situations where you need access to small supply of portable power; however, they lack the power required to be a reliable source of power for larger electrical appliances.
For those looking for a high-performance option at an affordable price, we highly recommend the MaxOak EB150 Bluetti 1,500wh Solar Generator.
It is actually one of the best-selling solar generators on the market. With a built-in LG 1,500wh lithium-ion battery and a fully integrated 1,000W power inverter, it is an ideal backup power unit for emergencies and power failures.
While you could use a transfer switch to connect the unit to your home’s electrical panel, thanks to its range of output ports, the EB150 can directly supply power to a wide variety of electrical devices. These include:
- 2 x Standard (wall-style) AC outports
- 4 x USB plug-ins
- 1 x USB-C plug-in
- 1 x 12V outlet
The built-in LED display screen and the lightweight design make this unit an incredibly useful solar generator.
Equipment for a Full-Scale Solar Power System
If you believe that a solar generator will not be capable of storing enough power to be a practical solution for your needs, you can always invest in a full-scale solar power system. With these systems, your solar equipment is wired directly to your home. Not only is this convenient, you are not constrained by the storage limitations of a generator. While you lose portability, they offer plenty of advantages for those looking to build a more permanent solar power system.
If you are in need of solar equipment, you will find everything you need by browsing the various departments of our solar store. Whether you are in the market for a complete solar kit, or you are just looking for a specific piece of equipment, we can help. We carry the best brands in the industry and offer their products at some of the best prices you will find anywhere.
Solar Power Inverters:
One of the most important pieces of equipment you will need is a solar power inverter. Since solar panels use sunlight to generate DC power, you need a power inverter to convert that power into AC power, so your electrical devices can actually use it.
For more information about solar power inverters, as well as a full list of the options we carry, take a look at our Full Collection of Solar Power Inverters.
We also encourage you to take a look at our Solar Panel Connectors Guide, which tells you everything you need to know about wiring your solar equipment together using MC4 connectors and solar cables.
A solar generator is an incredibly useful piece of equipment. Whether you are looking to connect a solar generator directly to your home’s electrical panel, or you would just like to use one as a portable power station, we carry a wide variety of solar generators and solar generator kits that can meet your needs.
If you have any further questions about solar generators, or any other questions relating to solar power, please do not hesitate to reach out to us! We are always happy to help!